Rain water harvesting is considered the answer to India’s water woes. The practice has been patchy in many parts of the country, but Tamil Nadu’s experiment with the alternative water conservation technique is a rare success story.
The Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) scheme, a brainchild of Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, was launched in 2001 in a bid to rejuvenate water sources and improve ground water levels in the parched southern state.
The programme got off to a rocky start because of fierce resistance from residents after the government made it mandatory for all government and residential buildings. But nearly 15 years down the road, the tables have turned, so to speak.
The scheme has helped people in water-starved regions such as Chennai by raising water tables in most neighbourhoods, winning support from activists and local residents long dependent on groundwater for their daily needs.
The scheme has been implemented in rural pockets too, with a great degree of success. “We used to spend sleepless nights, thinking about sourcing water for daily needs. All that changed after the government came up with the RWH method. The water table has risen and we no longer face such an ordeal,” said Vanitha, a Chennai resident.
Chennai owes its success to a change in rules to ensure that new buildings didn't get the nod from authorities without rainwater harvesting structures. With more and more residents migrating to the suburbs from the city to overcome the water-related issues, the scheme has come in handy to make sure that there is no shortage.
Shekhar Raghavan, director of the Rain Centre, said Chennai has a head start because it has completed 70% of the work while other cities are getting started on the scheme. “Chennai has done a good job on the RWH front when compared to other cities/districts. In Tamil Nadu, urban harvesting is better when compared to the rural ones,” he said.